Old England is an imaginary place, a landscape built from words, woodcuts, films, paintings, picturesque engravings. It is a place imagined by people, and people do not live very long or look very hard. We are very bad at scale. The things that live in the soil are too small to care about; climate change too large to imagine. We are bad at time, too. We cannot remember what lived here before we did; we cannot love what is not. Nor can we imagine what will be different when we are dead. We live out our three score and ten, and tie our knots and lines only to ourselves. We take solace in pictures, and we wipe the hills of history.

-Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Good trip to the library today.

It’s not always easy, finding books that speak to me, from the past or from the future, finding the right books for the moment. It can take hours, stalking back and forth between the stacks, between continents, across centuries. It’s something I always look forward to. Each visit is like a little piece of art, each pile of books a carefully curated selection.

Today I was feeling curious for new things, new authors, new styles even, but each of my early attempts was frustrated, I kept sliding back to the old, old-man, stalwarts: Nabokov, Vonnegut, Steinbeck. Slowly, though, slowly, the shadows retreated, my focus opened.

One of the books I found was H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Nature writing is not something I’d really looked into before, unless you count some James Herriot stories when I was little. (I guess that counts.) It seems to be popular these days, or at least getting some sort of attention. We had a very successful reading of Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun a couple of months ago, and more recently, there was the book about lake swimming. And H is for Hawk. One thing though: why is it always paired with grief? Do the two naturally go together? That’s what a more naive me would probably have reflected. Now, cynical as I have become, I just wonder which executive art director is responsible for creating this aesthetic.

-Reading the Why

[PS. Check out the cover, it is gorgeous.]